Sacramento Republic

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Sacramento announced as latest MLS expansion city

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Major League Soccer is coming to Sacramento… finally.

[ MLS PLAYOFFS: LA Galaxy beat Minnesota to set up El Trafico ]

After nearly five years of waiting while flashier markets like Miami and Los Angeles scooped expansion bid after expansion bid, Sacramento was awarded an expansion franchise on Monday. Sacramento Republic FC, the existing team in USL Championship, will make the leap to MLS in 2022 in a brand new downtown stadium.

The stadium, which will be situated in the Railyards District as “a centerpiece of a redevelopment project” on the northwest corner of downtown Sacramento, will seat just over 20,000 fans and is expected to cost $300 million

[ MLS PLAYOFFS: Philly storms back from 3-1 down to beat Red Bulls in ET ]

The 20th largest media market in the United States, Sacramento sent a message to the North American soccer community in 2014 when the debut of their USL club saw a capacity crowd of more than 20,000 fans pack Hughes Stadium for the inaugural match of Sacramento Republic FC. Since then, they sold out match after match for Republic FC and established a new standard at the USL level. In the USL, Republic FC has set league records in many business metrics, including season ticket sales and merchandising, and have hosted exhibition matches against top international clubs.

With the addition of the MLS team in Sacramento, 19 clubs have joined MLS since 2005, fulfilling a vision for strategic expansion that has transformed the landscape of professional soccer across North America.  Republic FC will add another major professional sports franchise to the city, joining the National Basketball Association’s Kings. It will be the fourth MLS club in California, following the LA Galaxy, San Jose Earthquakes and LAFC.

Report: MLS, Sacramento on the verge of finalizing expansion deal

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Patience is a virtue, just ask Sacramento Republic.

According to the Sacramento Bee, Sacramento representatives and Major League Soccer officials have agreed “to the framework of a deal” that would grant the Californian capital an MLS expansion franchise in 2022, ending years of laborious work to bring top-flight soccer to Sacramento.

The team, which is expected to maintain their name and brand, issued a statement regarding the status of the negotiations shortly after the report surfaced:

“We appreciate the great excitement and anticipation in our community about Sacramento’s bid to join Major League Soccer,” the statement read. “As we have stated all along, we are working tirelessly to finalize an agreement to bring MLS to a city and a fanbase that deserves it. We respect the league’s expansion process and will not be providing any additional comment at this time.”

Since their introduction to the North American soccer landscape in 2014, with record crowds, a clear identity on and off the field and a championship behind them, it was crystal-clear Republic were MLS ready then.

League commissioner, Don Garber, who echoed the thoughts of many, and his pupils, however, never acted on their words, striking deals with Cincinnati, Miami, Nashville, Austin, and St. Louis amidst the clamor of Sacramento joining the league.

With billionaire Ron Burkle, partner Matt Alvarez, and local businessman Kevin Neagle all in the ownership fold since the beginning of the year, Sacramento’s legitimacy has taken a much-needed boost – with talks between the team and the league advancing uninterruptedly since April. Over the past two weeks, the deal has never been closer to the finish line.

The ownership group is required to commit to lavish financial undertakings, with the expansion fee bumped to $200 million recently – all in addition to land purchases, the construction of a 20,000-plus seat stadium in the city’s Railyards, and team-wide operational expenses. There is a “contingency deal in place” for the group to buy 31 acres of land for the $250 million stadium as soon as the expansion is made official.

A green light from the league would make Sacramento the league’s 29th team, and the state’s fourth, joining the likes of LA Galaxy, LAFC and San Jose Earthquakes, who they’ve established a budding rivalry with dating back to the club’s first-ever game in 2014.

“While the deal is not finalized, we are working hard and I’ve never been more confident that we will bring (MLS to Sacramento),” Mayor Darrell Steinberg, who has been an influential contributor to the project, tweeted Friday.

The wait is almost over.

Sacramento Republic acquire new lead investor for MLS expansion push

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Sacramento Republic FC took a giant step forward on Tuesday in its pursuit of a Major League Soccer expansion slot.

The club announced in a statement that it had secured the financial investment of billionaire Ron Burkle, an American venture capitalist who also is a part-owner of the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins. According to Sacramento Republic chairman and CEO Kevin Nagle, Burkle becomes the team’s new lead investor after a long search.

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“For more than a year, we have worked tirelessly alongside Mayor (Darrell) Steinberg to identify a new lead investor that further strengthens our bid to bring Major League Soccer to Sacramento,” Nagle said. “While we held discussions with several potential investors, our focus was, and remains, on finding the right lead investor whose vision for our club and our city best aligns with ours.

“Mr. Burkle is an exceptional leader and businessman, a champion sports owner, a dedicated philanthropist, and someone with a deep appreciation for Sacramento. He is the ideal person to lead the next chapter of our club.”

Founder of the Yucaipa Companies, a venture-capitalist firm, Burkle is reported by Forbes Magazine to hold a net worth of $2 billion, immediately making him one of the richest owners in the American soccer landscape. And according to multiple reports out of Sacramento, the backing of a billionaire was the biggest roadblock between Sacramento joining MLS.

The Sacramento Bee provided some additional notes from the announcement. It’s expected that Burkle will purchase not only the team but also the stadium, which is expected to be privately funded and cost around $250 million. Including a potential future MLS expansion fee of $150 million or more, Burkle could be playing close to half a billion dollars as part of this deal, no small chump change. Nagle meanwhile is expected to stay on as a senior executive.

Since bringing in huge crowds of 10,000 or more fans for their 2014 run to the USL Cup title (which was a lot back in those days), Sacramento seemed to be on the edge of MLS expansion. But since that run, due to missing out on key financial invesments from deep-pocketed owners, Sacramento has been passed by and forced to stay in USL.

Atlanta United, Minnesota United, and Los Angeles FC have all started play in MLS, with FC Cincinnati joining this season. Nashville SC, Inter Miami and Austin FC have all clinched places to start in MLS within the next three years. Meanwhile other cities like Detroit, San Diego and St. Louis are battling with Sacramento for the 28th and (for now) final place in MLS’ expansion journey.

Tech exec Whitman joins Sacramento MLS expansion bid

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NEW YORK (AP) Meg Whitman, the CEO of Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co., joined the bid of Sacramento, California, for a Major League Soccer franchise on Wednesday as the four finalists made presentations to the league’s expansion committee.

Sacramento and Nashville, Tennessee, are considered the favorites to be awarded teams next month. Cincinnati and Detroit also are bidding.

Sacramento’s bid includes Kevin Nagle, a minority owner of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings, and Jed York, CEO of the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers. The group said in July it was starting pre-construction activity for a 19,621-seat downtown stadium.

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“The committee asked very tough questions, and we’ll come back with all the answers,” Nagle said. “We never take anything for granted.”

Nashville’s group includes John Ingram, the chairman of Ingram Industries Inc., and the Wilf family, owner of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings. The Metro Nashville City Council on Nov. 7 approved $225 million in revenue bonds to construct a 27,500-seat soccer stadium and an additional $50 million in bonds for renovations and improvements around the site at the current fairgrounds.

“People all across our city, from elected officials to business and civic leaders, soccer fans and the public, have joined together in support of this bid,” Ingram said. “We believe MLS and Nashville are a perfect match and are ready to prove that Music City is Soccer City.”

Cincinnati’s group includes Carl H. Lindner III, co-CEO of American Financial Group and owner of FC Cincinnati in the second-tier United Soccer League. The Cincinnati City Council approved a plan for the city to invest up to $36 million in infrastructure such as roads around a privately funded stadium. The community council in the Oakley neighborhood where the stadium would be built voted against the proposal.

Detroit’s group is seen as having the poorest chance after announcing Nov. 1 it would use Ford Field, home of the NFL’s Lions. The group includes Dan Gilbert, owner of the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers and chairman of Quicken Loans Inc., and Tom Gores, owner of the NBA’s Detroit Pistons and chairman of Platinum Equity.

MLS owners plan to discuss expansion when they meet in New York on Dec. 14.

The league has 22 teams this season and Los Angeles FC is to start play in March at a new stadium under construction near the Coliseum. Former Manchester United, Real Madrid and LA Galaxy star David Beckham was tentatively awarded a Miami team in 2014, but that is contingent on a stadium site he has thus far failed to secure.

The league in 2015 announced plans to expand to 28 teams and said last December that teams 25 and 26 will start play by 2020.

U.S. Open Cup preview: Which underdog has best odds?

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Every dog has its day, and the three lower-tier clubs remaining in the 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup are hoping for a second.

Miami FC, Sacramento Republic, and FC Cincinnati enjoyed wins over Major League Soccer sides in the fourth round, and now get further MLS tests in this week’s fifth round.

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Once FC Dallas and Colorado Rapids tangle on Tuesday, attention turns to the underdogs on Wednesday. Who has the best chance to advance?

  1. Miami FC vs. Atlanta United — Playing an MLS expansion side at Riccardo Silva Stadium will give Miami a bit of confidence, and this is also a side with some good experience in pressure spots. Whether it’s manager Alessandro Nesta or MLS vets Michel, Gabriel Farfan, and Michael Lahoud, MFC won’t shy away. Upset chance: Solid.
  2. FC Cincinnati vs. Chicago Fire — The visitors are having a heck of a season in MLS and don’t have a group which will be worried by a huge crowd, but there’s no debating that 25,000-plus in Southern Ohio give FCC more than a puncher’s chance. Upset chance: Improbable, but possible
  3. LA Galaxy vs. Sacramento Republic — If LA puts something close to its best side out there, Sacramento will struggle to stop its attack.  Upset chance: Long shot.

Elsewhere on Wednesday, New England hosts DC United, Philadelphia visits the Red Bulls, Seattle is off to San Jose, and Houston hosts Sporting KC.